Concerns about Environment and Government Effectiveness Fuel RPCV Paul Clements’ (Gambia 1985-87) Congressional Campaign
Last month, RPCV Paul Clements formally announced his run as a Democratic candidate for Congress in Michigan’s 6th District. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of activity for Clements, his family (including wife Aedin, who worked in the Gambia with Ireland’s aid agency, APSO), and the team of dedicated campaign staffers and volunteers he’s assembled.
Campaigning takes enormous time and energy. Clements attends several fundraisers and meet-the-candidate events each week. And he recently spent two days in Washington, D.C., meeting with representatives from union, environmental, civil rights, and other national groups, seeking their support.
Like most PCV’s Clements brings a global perspective to his work. He sees climate change as a threat not just to Southwest Michigan, but the world. “Climate change threatens nature as we know it … and it threatens to wreak havoc internationally, with drought, famine, and floods.” His main impetus for running for Congress was, in fact, his disappointment over incumbent representative Fred Upton’s shift from a moderate environmental stance to radical climate change denial. Upton, a Republican who chairs the House’s powerhouse Energy and Commerce Committee, has accrued such a dismal record on environmental issues that the L.A. Times calls him, the #1 “enemy of the Earth” in Congress.*http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2011/12/republicans-environment.html
If environmental concerns were Clements’ primary reason for running for Congress, his desire for a Congress that works and serves the people was a close second. Like most Americans, he was disturbed by October’s Republican-led government shutdown. “They couldn’t defeat the Affordable Care Act through legitimate legislative means, so they decided to hijack the government,” notes Clements. “It cost American taxpayers more than $30 billion* and was the height of irresponsibility. And, unfortunately, Fred Upton was at the center of it.”
Clements is encouraged by what he sees as Michigan voters’ growing disenchantment with Republicans in general, and Upton in particular. “At this point in Congressman Upton’s career, he has drifted away from the representation he once gave his constituents to a closer relationship with power brokers to further his personal agenda,” notes constituent JoAnne Ivey in a typical comment. Not surprisingly, the last decade has seen a steady decline in Upton’s approval ratings, and his recent wins (against underfunded opponents) have been by ever-smaller margins.
Once he assumes office, Clements’ own experience will give him a unique and valuable perspective. An economist whose specialty is the evaluation of international development programs, he has spent decades researching, teaching and writing about what makes programs (including government programs) effective, accountable, and cost-effective. “Government should help create opportunity for all,” he points out. “But when a program doesn’t achieve its stated aims, it’s not helping anyone.” Taxpayers who are concerned with waste and ineffectiveness in government, “have a legitimate concern,” he says.
Paul Clements will be a voice for environmental and social justice, as well as good governance. We desperately need such voices, and equally desperately need to unseat Fred Upton, a career politician whose depredations extend well beyond the environment. (He’s received failing or near-failing grades from dozens of civil rights, union, women’s, labor, and other social justice groups.)
There is a very proud tradition of Peace Corps Volunteers continuing their service through political office. Paul is but the latest example, and I ask everyone reading this to support his campaign. The end of the year is a crucial deadline for fundraising, as the total raised is used by many national groups to decide which local candidates to support and endorse. So please donate generously, so that Paul can continue to work toward environmental sustainability, economic and social equality, and good government for all.
Contributions can be made at:
- Hillary Rettig, campaign supporter